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Symposium in Berlin 2015, 
Joseph Ratzinger Pope Benedict XVI Foundation

hope and mission. The Speeches of Benedict XVI on politics 






Serving the law and defending against the rule of injustice is and remains the basic task of the politician. This task becomes particularly urgent at a historical hour when man has gained power that was previously unimaginable. [...] Where positivistic reason reigns supreme - and that is largely the case in our public consciousness - the classical sources of knowledge for ethos and law are suspended. This is a dramatic situation that affects everyone and that requires public discussion, which is an essential intention of this speech to be urged.

Pope Benedict XVI – Speech to the German Bundestag on September 22, 2011


Wednesday – November 25, 2015

Location: Reichstag building, late afternoon



archbishop dr Georg Gänswein/ Rome

hope and responsibility. The major socio-political issues of Pope Benedict XVI.


In the two terms "hope" and "responsibility" two main pillars in the work of the theologian Joseph Ratzinger and in the proclamation of Pope Benedict XVI are concentrated. They run like a red thread through his entire theological thinking. The successor of Peter did not shy away from taking a position on the major social issues importune opportune. Deeply anchored in the biblical message and in the depositum fidei of the Church, it answers the challenges of modern man and the great questions of the present: the threat to peace, solidarity and justice, the special position of religion as the guardian and mediator of a value system that both transcendentally founded and committed to reason.


Matthias Matusek

"The Leaping Hostility". Pope Benedict and the German press



Conversation with Archbishop Gänswein



Thursday – November 26, 2015

Venue: Asanta House, 09:15 (09:30)



unit 1

Prof. Dr. Berthold Wald/Paderborn

Christianity, secular reason and interculturality. What brings the world together

A recurring theme in the great speeches of Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI. is the question of how, in view of the inner-cultural and intercultural differences, the community-building power of secular reason and Christian faith can be regained and made fruitful for an urgently needed "polyphonic correlation" of cultures (dialogue with Jürgen Habermas). An important prerequisite for intercultural and interreligious dialogue is the opening and widening of reason within our own secular culture. This happens to the extent that philosophy and theology open up to the basic questions of man and thus to each other. However, only a lively "correlation of reason and faith" for mutual purification and healing, which belongs to the common heritage of Christianity and Western reason, has the potential to also include other cultures and religions in this process of opening and widening. "Willingness to listen to the great religious traditions", i.e. the courage to think broadly, is the indispensable prerequisite for a "real dialogue between cultures and religions" (Regensburg speech).


dr Rocio Daga/ Munich-Eichstätt

History and Legal Understanding in Islam: Categories of Thought in Classical Islam and the Upheaval of Modernity

After differentiating between the terms "Islam" - empire in the Middle Ages - and "islam" - the religious experience of the people - we will analyze and present the categories of thought of classical Islam. Central to Islamic culture is the understanding of law, which includes a specific methodology. This shapes the thinking of people in everyday life. In addition, the understanding of revelation and law determine the conception of history with its consequences and its ultimate goal. The question of faith and reason is here combined with the question of identity and tradition in Islam. From the perspective of the origin and development of the classical system of thought in Islam, we will discuss the role of Muhammad in Islam as understood by Sunni, as well as the concepts of jihad and the status of non-Muslims. The consequences of the upheaval of modernity and their problems in relation to the mentioned system of thought are presented.



unit 2

Prof. Dr. Martin Rhonheimer/Rome-Vienna

Law and Politics: Benedict's Confrontation with Democracy and Legal Positivism


In his Bundestag speech, Benedict XVI. the view that democratic decision-making cannot finally and ultimately decide what is right and what is wrong. Irrespective of this, politicians must always ask themselves the question: "How do we recognize what is right?" The criterion for right and wrong is natural law. However, Benedict does not want to renew the older church view, which places the legitimacy of democratic majority decisions under the condition of their agreement with the natural law – interpreted by the church – and thus relativizes the political autonomy of democratic processes. His view is best understood as a legal-ethical position, which according to natural law is not valid law, but is a legal-ethical standard for right and wrong. This does not call into question the procedural autonomy of democratic processes; however, law valid in this way and established by a majority can be criticized as material injustice in the name of legal ethics and – in the name of law – its change can be demanded. In his examination of the "dictatorship of relativism" he diagnosed and Hans Kelsen's legal positivism, Benedict appealed to the "language of nature". This prompts the counter question: What are the criteria for listening to this language correctly? And what makes the “language of nature” morally binding? Is it, as Benedict agrees with Kelsen, the existence of a divine creator of nature, which Kelsen denies? On this point, Benedict's argument seems to be correct in terms of creation metaphysics, but insufficient in terms of legal ethics. A supplementary perspective is therefore to be demonstrated by going back to the Christian tradition of natural law.


Prof. Dr. Nadja El Beheiri, Budapest

The legal traditions of Europe and natural law

From my point of view, the Pope's speech in the German Bundestag can be understood as a kind of summary of his socio-political teachings. In the formulation "Fundamentals of the free constitutional state" at the beginning of the speech, the attempt to reconcile the two great traditions of Europe resonates. On the one hand, there is the classic tradition of pre-Christian antiquity and Christian antiquity, on the other hand, that of the Enlightenment, which ultimately led to the development of the modern constitutional state. Secondly, it is about establishing a concept of natural law that is also suitable for dialogue with non-believers. The relationship between nature and reason is decisive in connection with the discussion about natural law. With a view to defining the term, the Pope refers to the origin of European legal culture in the encounter between Stoic philosophy and Roman law. It seems to me that just the fact for Benedict XVI. what was important was that this was a pre-Christian development that the early Christian thinkers followed. The Pope refers to the work of the Salzburg legal historian Wolfgang Waldstein. For his part, Waldstein gained his knowledge in collaboration with the most important researchers of Roman law in the German-speaking area. The decisive factor here is that the work of the Roman jurists was not characterized so much by systematic philosophical considerations, but rather by the case solutions required in practice. The concept of natural law is not only recorded using the term ius naturale (in the case of Ulpian in the sense of a natural law inherent in all living beings), but also using other expressions such as aequitas, fides, iustitia, etc. From Waldstein's work, the em. Pope also the dispute with Hans Kelsen. In my opinion, this discussion has two thrusts. On the one hand it is about the rejection of a purely positivistic understanding of nature. On the other hand, Kelsen also stands for the negation of an objective truth and the consistent rejection of the existence of a Creator God. It is precisely with regard to these two positions that the Pope calls for a dialogue. 

In the early afternoon

unit 3

Prof. Dr. Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, Heiligenkreuz

With nature and reason: basic questions to gender theory

In the Berlin speech of 2011, Pope Benedict XVI referred, as so often, to nature and reason as the two sources of a law that stands above a positivistically enacted order. A right understood in this way must therefore uncover fundamental anthropological questions and open up avenues for broad approval. One of the most urgent anthropological questions has been posed by gender theory for about 25 years: Does it make sense to differentiate between men and women? At the end of a historical development, have we reached the point where this distinction is to be removed and only what is commonly human is to be emphasized? Are there only neutral people? Can subordinate and superordinate orders that have been handed down through gender finally disappear in this way? Are previously marginal forms of gender practice in favor of sexual diversity socially and legally permissible? Can men and women settle into “freedom” of their own choice through “flowing identity”? Our culture has so far relied on enlightenment through reason. But is reason enough (along with nature) in such a passionate debate? Does Christianity have a solution beyond other solutions? The ways of thinking of Benedict XVI. still seem helpful in order to meaningfully combine the tried and tested with the new in the onslaught of such questions.


Prof. Dr. Harold Seubert, Basel

ecology of humanity. The thrown draft

My contribution plumbs those of Benedict XVI. outlined “Human Ecology”. It is about the question of man as a world being and the world concept of being human, which I - with Heidegger - try to bring to the concept of the "thrown draft". Following Gerl-Falkovitz's lecture, the question will be asked whether the current constructivisms are up to this dimension and how Christian kerygma and reason as well as natural law relate to each other before this focus. The concept of a “human ecology” can be suitable for putting the common “Eritis sicut Deus” in its place. It also allows man to be grasped in an ontology which, on the one hand, is entirely philosophical, but on the other hand, in a Christian manner, once again surpasses the concepts of reason. From a truth-ecumenical and philosophical point of view, the lecture will show an untapped potential in the thinking of Benedict XVI. seek to accentuate.


4 p.m

Eucharistic celebration at the end with Archbishop Dr. George Ganswein













short report

The prefect of the papal house, Archbishop Dr. Gänswein the main lecture. After the opening by the Vice President of the German Bundestag, Johannes Singhammer, and a self-confessed welcome by the chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Volker Kauder, the guest devoted himself to the topic of the lecture: "Hope and responsibility. The major socio-political basic themes of Pope Benedict XVI. "

In the large reception hall in the Reichstag, the personal secretary of the Pope Emeritus spoke on some important topics of the encyclical "Caritas in vertitate". In doing so, he succeeded in introducing the numerous members of parliament and a large number of guests to the political thinking of Joseph Ratzinger at a high academic level.

Photos: Michael Hofmann

The proceedings:


Stephan Otto Horn, Wolfram Schmidt (eds.) With a foreword by Johannes Singhammer

hope and mission

The Speeches of Benedict XVI to politics
Release year 2017
ISBN: 978-3-451-37811-9
Publisher Herder

The Importance of Pope Benedict XVI's Political Speeches
Pope Benedict XVI not only commented on important political and social issues in his speech to the German Bundestag. The contributions clarify and discuss his positions on the topics
– Christianity and interculturality,
– Conversation with Islam,
– value of democracy,
– attitude towards legal positivism and natural law,
– Gender Theory.
The volume shows how the work of Pope em. kept present and can be understood in its sense as a mandate to shape the world.
With contributions by Rocio Daga-Portillo, Nadja El Beheiri, Georg Gänswein, Hanna-Barbara Gerl-Falkovitz, Martin Rhonheimer, Harald Seubert, Berthold Wald


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